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Instant Apps Development: How to Create One for Business

19 min read
Instant Apps Development for Business
Google instant apps are not a new concept in the Android ecosystem.

The giant introduced the technology in 2015. Six years later, Android instant apps have gained popularity. However, many businesses still haven’t discovered the real power of such solutions and the benefits they can get.

In this article, we’ll talk about how to create an instant app for Android and why businesses should consider this option.

Here’s what you’ll learn inside our guide:

  • What are Android instant apps?
  • Android instant app vs PWA
  • Android instant apps examples
  • Business benefits of instant apps development
  • How to create instant app Android
  • Best UX practices for instant apps development

While a PWA is a full-fledged solution that has all the features of a mobile application, instant apps serve another purpose. They allow users to get a glimpse of your application to later decide whether they want to install the full version or not.

What are Android Instant Apps?

What is Google Play Instant Apps
Instant apps in Android are a type of native apps that don’t require installations to run. They combine the power of native applications and the accessibility of web apps.

At the first glance, instant applications look like traditional native applications. They are very different when it comes to their technical part.

Instant applications are created by turning some functionality of a native app into a standalone module. The rest of the application’s features are not available to users. They would need to download and install the whole native app to access it. As soon as users close an instant app, it disappears from their mobile device.

Let’s dive a little bit deeper into how Google instant apps operate from a technical perspective.

How Do Instant Apps Work?

Users can access an instant app by following a URL. When Google Play receives a request for a URL, it looks up for an instant app that matches it. After it identifies such an app, Google Play sends the necessary code file to the user’s mobile device. The device automatically opens the file and runs the app. As soon as the user closes the app, it’s deleted from the smartphone.

Check the image below demonstrating how Google instant apps work.

How to use Android Instant Apps

Android Instant App vs PWA

Instant applications are often confused with another innovative technology – progressive web applications.

PWAs were also introduced by Google and combine features of native apps and web solutions. You can use them offline without the need to download the app.

PWAs and instant apps might seem similar but differ in a number of domains. Look at the table below explaining key differences.

  Google Instant Apps Progressive Web Apps
App-like interface + +
Offline usage + +
Fast loading + +
No need to download an app from an app store +

(unless you want to access all app’s functionality)

+
Shareable via a link + +
Icon on the home screen + +
Crawlable by search engines +
Access to all features

(only a small portion of features is available)

+

While a PWA is a full-fledged solution that has all the features of mobile applications, instant apps serve another purpose. They allow users to get a glimpse of your application to later decide whether they want to install the full version or not.

Android Instant Apps Examples

There are a number of Android instant apps examples. You might have even used some of them in the past without suspecting that they have an instant app version. If you haven’t, you can check them out to see how the technology works in real life:

  • NOS.nl – the leading news and sports company in the Netherlands uses Google Play Instant to generate more app installations.
  • Vimeo – American video hosting and sharing platform managed to increase session duration by 130% with instant applications.
  • Dotloop – a leading transaction platform increased engagement with Google instant apps by 62%.
  • Strike Force – a game by Marvel that uses instant apps to increase the number of app installations.
  • Evino – an eCommerce application that attracts new customers with an instant app.

As you can see, instant app examples are numerous and can benefit companies from different business spheres. Jump to the next chapter of the article to learn how such solutions can benefit your business.

Benefits of Google Instant Apps

Before you start instant apps development, you need to understand all the advantages that you can get thanks to the implementation of such solutions.

Let’s explore some of them.

  • User acquisition – instant applications can help you with user acquisition, one of the most challenging tasks for any business. Users can test the app and use its key features without installation. As a result, they are more likely to try it and install it later.
  • Greater exposure – it’s quite challenging today to convince users to install your application. Hence, you might need to consider different types of promotions, such as sharing a link to your instant app on social media. Users can check your app without visiting an app store or a long installation process.
  • Improved user experience – in some cases, it might be more convenient for users to open your app for a few minutes than visiting a website. In such situations, instant apps will come in handy.
  • Competitive advantage – you can turn an instant app into your competitive advantage. Users will be able to take a glimpse inside your application without installation, which increases the chances that they will want to use your application later.

This is just a part of the benefits of instant apps development. They can easily increase the number of app installations, improve engagement rate and turn visitors into users.

How to Create an Instant App for Android

Now that we successfully explored the benefits of instant apps, let’s find out how to create an instant app for Android from a technical point of view.

Do you already have a mobile application? You can turn it into an instant app in no time.

If you don’t have one, include this task in the list of all the tasks for your development team. 

Instant app development is not difficult since developers don’t need to create a new codebase. They can use the existing code, API and project.

The image below demonstrates the key steps needed to create Android instant apps.

Instant Apps Development Process

Let’s review each of them in more detail.

1. SDK installation & environment setting

The first step of instant app development comes down to accessing the Google Play Instant Development SDK. You can use this Android instant apps development SDK with Android Studio 6.0 and higher and an Android emulator that runs on Android 6.0 or higher. After you have set up an environment, you can move on to the next step.

2. Code addition to a feature module

At this step, you will need to move the app’s code to the feature module. This action will create a minimal app module.

3. Module building

At this stage, you need to know which functionality you want your instant app to have. After you decide on the features, you will need to build the APK module. This action will turn the app’s functionality into a smearable feature module.

4. Instant app module creation

Use a single feature APK to create an instant app module. At this step, you will turn the app’s functionality into one that can be accessed as an instant application.

5. App links defining

At the final stage of instant apps development, you need to create a relationship between a website and the app. Such a link will set up the instant app runtime. Users will use the URLs to launch your instant application on their mobile devices.

Now you know how to create an instant app for Android. As you can see, you need to have a sufficient level of technical knowledge to turn a native app into an instant one.

Instant Apps Development: Best UX Practices

Instant applications provide users with a new way of interacting with mobile apps. Thus, such apps require the use of specific UX practices that are different from native app development.

Let’s review some of the best UX practices for instant apps development that will help you provide users with a great experience.

  • Prepare a landing screen

Users access your instant app by clicking the Try Now button in the Play Store. In most cases, they don’t have enough information on the app’s features before hitting the button. 

That’s why providing them with a landing screen that tells something about your solution is essential. Make sure that the landing screen includes the name of your application and an overview of the app’s functionality.

  • Lead users to Google Play

Instant applications provide you with the flexibility of using links to them on the web. What you need to remember is that an instant app opens instantly after a user clicks the link. That’s why it might be a good idea to redirect them to the app’s page on Google Play where users will be able to find additional information about the applications. This way, it will increase the chances that users will install your app after trying it out.

  • Allow completing tasks

Native applications provide only a small portion of the native application’s functionality. To avoid user frustration, allow them to complete the task for which they opened your instant app. For example, you have an app for news service, allow them to read the article to the end and only then ask them to install the app. Asking them to do it in the middle of the reading might ruin their enjoyment of your solution.

Google Android Instant Apps UX
  • Ask to sign in at the right time

Asking users to sign in as soon as they open an instant app might not be a good idea. At the beginning of their journey, they don’t understand why you might need their personal details. Try to provide them with as much functionality as you can without requiring authentication. Ask them to sign in after they try to use some features that are not available without registering a user account.

Getting Started with Android Instant Apps UX
  • Restore user state after installation

The main goal of instant apps is to prompt users to install the native application. After they perform the needed action, don’t make them start over with the app. Users should be able to pick up when they left off in your instant app. So, make sure your preserve the user state and restore it after app installation.

Instant Apps Development: State Restoring
  • User the same UI

Instant apps on Android should have the same user interface as your native application. This way, after users install a native app, they won’t be surprised to see an entirely different UI, as such a situation might lead to immediate app deletion.

  • Remove non-functional UI elements

Since with instant apps you provide only a portion of the full functionality, there might be some user interface elements needed for unavailable features. Don’t forget to delete them, otherwise it will learn to user confusion and frustration.

  • Allow sharing instant app URL

Users can’t copy the link of a Google instant app. This doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be able to share it with friends. Quite the opposite. Provide them with such a feature as it will increase the number of potential users.

How to Find an App Development Company

How you know how to create an instant app for Android.

What’s next?

You will need to find a company that will help you build a Google instant app. Check the following steps to make the right choice:

  • Explore available options

You are probably wondering where to start the search for developers. Clutch, ITFirms, Manifest and other platforms are a great place to start with finding your ideal instant apps development company. Such platforms list thousands of development companies that you can filter by region, price tag, and other factors.

  • Check portfolios

In most cases, the company’s portfolio won’t include the direct mention of an instant app. However, you can check projects, evaluate their complexity and find out in which industries the vendor has already provided development services. Such research will help you understand whether the company will be able to deliver the needed mobile application.

Interested in knowing more about app development outsourcing?

Check the guide prepared by our team to find detailed instructions:

How to Outsource App Development in 2021: How to Make It Work

  • Check reviews

Customer reviews tell a lot about a company, so make sure to check them. If you want to take your research further, get in touch with the vendor’s current and former clients to get information right from the source.

  • Contact prospects

After you have identified a few prospects, get in touch with them to talk in person. During the first interaction, pay attention to the level of English knowledge and cultural differences that might become a problem during cooperation. Ask the right questions to evaluate their experience and pay attention to the questions they ask you. An IT vendor won’t be able to estimate your project without knowing everything about it.

  • Choose the right region

When outsourcing app development, you might need to work with a vendor from a different country or even part of the world. The best decision is to choose a team that will have a few hours overlap with you. This way you will be able to get in touch with them during your business hours.

Need help with instant apps development?

Get in touch with our team for a consultation. We will help you to build a digital product and reach business goals.
How do instant apps differ from native apps?
Unlike native apps, Google instant apps don’t require installation to run. Users can access them via a link and after they close it, the app is deleted from their mobile device.
Why should I create an instant app?
Instant apps development can bring a number of benefits, such as higher user engagement, more native app installations, improved user experience, and much more.
Where can I find a company to help me build an instant app?
There are multiple places online where you can find a company that will help you with the task. Start with such platforms as Clutch and Manifest to shortlist prospects. Pay attention to companies’ location and portfolio to choose a vendor that has relevant experience and a favorable location
Can I turn my existing app into an instant app?
Yes. It’s possible to turn a native application into an instant app for Android. To do that, you will need to turn some part of the app into a feature module and link it to Google Play. The process requires technical knowledge and understanding of the technology.

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